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Thoughts on Sofia, Disney’s newest Princess…What does a Latina look like?

sofia pic monkey

Dora came after my time… I do remember thinking though, “Dora doesn’t look like me” (hell, Dora doesn’t really look like anyone, with those larger than life eyes and pet monkey)  or is very representative of my culture, aside from the fact that she spoke Spanish.
I’m going to be honest- While I think Dora The Explorer is a pretty good show,  I actually think Dora reinforces stereotypes about Latinos being a certain shade of brown, or  another mistaken belief, that all Latinos are of Mexican descent.
Growing up, I remember liking Ariel (the Little Mermaid) because she had a beautiful voice… and she was a mermaid, and I thought Eric was cute. I remember liking Belle (Beauty and the Beast) because she could sing, and had pretty brown hair… like me! (So I guess maybe I “identified” with Belle? Who—for the record, is from France… I guess that has followed me my whole life!) These characters, while I have fond memories of them, well, they are make believe. There are many aspects of these fairy tales that are not true—who the hell lives with seven dwarfs or talking candlesticks?

After reading a lot of the comments out there, I am perplexed about the reaction to Sofia, the new Disney princess. Most, if not all, of Disney princess story lines are, well, not based on reality! Why has Sofia become so controversial?

The reality is We’d need 15 different cartoon princesses to represent the variety of Hispanic women that exists.  The truth is, no one cartoon will ever satisfy all the different types of Latina women out there. Disney will never be able to please everyone

What many who try to put all Latinos in one category don’t realize, is that inside each and every Latin American country, there is a huge variety of shades, shapes, ethnicities and races. Something else that is true, whether we like to admit it or not, is that there is racism and class tensions represented in a different and perhaps subtle ways in each individual country.

When immigrants from different parts of Latin America come to this country, they bring some of these ideas with them. I know we like to pretend that we are this united bunch, but the reality is not as pretty. Inside each country there are even regional differences and biases, among countries as well. And perhaps it is a legacy of a colonial past, but the truth is, I have found that certain skin tones and traits are preferred, for example. It suffices to watch any telenovela or Spanish-language program to realize that there is an ideal that is still preferred in Latino culture… I remember the heroines in telenovelas I watched growing up… I know some things have changed, I like to think that things have become some what more inclusive, but the reality is that there are preferred types of women, usually with more “Euro” or “Caucasian” looks on television. (I would like to give a shout out to Brazilian telenovelas, because I see a lot of diversity on their television shows)  I am bringing this up because it seems almost hypocritical to call out Disney for Sofia, when mainstream Latino TV isn’t representative of all types of Hispanic women.

As a Hispanic woman, I am not so much concerned Sofia’s skin color. I am more interested in what other aspects of my culture will be displayed. Will Sofia speak Spanish? Will the importance of familia be highlighted? What kind of food will Sofia eat?  What kind of music will she dance?

If Sofia had had pigtails and a poncho, I would not have identified myself with her either, any more than if she had had darker skin. If Sofia eats tortillas, tacos and mole, I won’t identify myself with her either… Because I didn’t grow up eating that, it’s not part of my culture.

As I said earlier, Disney will never be able to please anyone… had Sofia been darker-skinned, people would have complained that she was being too stereotyped, and the outrage would be, that not all Latina women are dark-skinned. By the way, Sofia the First looks like a very successful Latina… Natalie Morales!

I don’t have any little girls who want to be princesses, but I am going to check out Sofia the First, hoping that the amazing aspects of Latino culture are highlighted. I am not too worried about Sofia, I think she will be what she is meant to be, a princess little girls can dream about, a fairy tale… make believe. Little girls shouldn’t be looking to identify with Disney princesses… their lives are far from reality. We shouldn’t forget that.

What is more pressing to me is the need for more characters on television that represent the rich variety that exists in the Latino culture, bilingual and bicultural successful individuals. TV INDUSTRY: TAKE HEED!

What does a Hispanic/Latina woman look like?

I thought it would be interesting to put something to the test… Below I have included photos of different women, some are Latinas, some are not… try to guess! Results of my little experiment will be posted next week!

Leave your guesses below, or tweet me @dianalimongi

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

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